Wednesday, February 18, 2015

More eLC Learning Reflections

As a follow-up to the eLC Learning Days, we were asked to contribute to a Google doc, to choose a few of the 21st century competencies that we observed and then to add a few notes on what we observed, how technology was being used, and what it “looked like” from the students’ perspective. Later it was also mentioned that one principal was interested in what Next Steps might look like for her staff. That really got me thinking, because, well, it is really hard to watch super teachers, be amazed at their skills, but still imagine what else they might perhaps do…
Here are several comments that I made with examples from several different schools.

Competencies: Critical thinking, argumentation, negotiation, citizenship
Grade 6 students were assigned to debate teams and were asked to take opposing sides on an important environmental issue, the Alberta oil sands (good or bad). Most did not bring background knowledge of this topic. Working collaboratively and using laptops to go online, they researched many different aspects of this issue in order to present diverse points of view. They drew on a wide range of information from the impact on humans and animals, to the economy, using facts and statistics. They used Google docs to collaborate.
Students were totally engaged in the project. It involved research skills that were quite demanding. During the debate, they quickly learned the routine of present and rebut. They used the laptops to refer to their notes as they presented information or defended their point of view. They were articulate and were able to make effective and impassioned arguments both pro and con.
Competencies: Literacy, appreciation for diversity, perseverance
A group of Grade 1 ELL students was using iPads to simultaneously learn English and learn to read. The device was used to reinforce phonemic awareness, and provide a level of engagement. It was used in conjunction with print display materials. While the lesson was teacher-guided, the students had a level of familiarity with the 3-4 apps that were used in one short period, that enabled them to practice everything from sounds to fine motor skills associated with printing.
The students were a delight to observe, and obviously enjoyed this class. As recent immigrants to Canada, they had limited English language skills and as well were at an age where they were learning to read. You could tell that simply interacting with the teacher and the device was building language skills. This was on top of the lesson, which “was brought to us by the letter H.”:) They had clearly worked hard to become familiar with using the touch screen and with navigation. They responded to teacher suggestions that involved describing the icons, or saying what colour they were, which I thought was all good for learning a second language. They used the iPad for reading, sounding out the letters, locating the letter, printing the letters, singing a rhyming song, and more.
Competencies: Critical thinking, literacy, responsibility, intellectual interest and curiosity
A grade 8 Science class needed to move forward with a project, designing a water filtration system, and to get caught up with some other assignments. The teacher was running the class out of the Hub, or D2L. The students had access to laptops and a wireless Internet connection. The teacher had been away the previous week. He had gone into the class Dropbox and determined that a large number of students had not submitted the learning/assignments/documents needed prior to starting to design their filters. D2L allowed him to do this prior to class and be ready. In discussing the project, the teacher used YouTube to show a humourous infomercial, and combined part of the scientific method (application) with media literacy by asking the students to observe and then state why the infomercial was effective. They were to use these strategies to present their final filter design and its application.
Using D2L in a blended learning sense enabled the teacher to prepare for class effectively, monitor his students’ progress, and capture the right moment to prompt them about the project. I liked how he said that the work was likely done, just not submitted. Very gracious. Student reaction was positive.
D2L allows the students to access the assignment instructions, complete the work and submit it. Students were working in partners, and could use Google docs to collaborate. They had access to laptops and were eager to get started on whatever stage of work they were at. They really enjoyed the infomercial and it was a great way to illustrate the presentation goal.
Competencies: Creativity, analysis, collaboration, cooperation, self-direction, social influence
A Grade 1 class was presented with a design challenge, to solve a problem from the previous day when the clocks they were working with could not be viewed flat on a table: they now had to make stands so that everyone could see the clocks.
The Smartboard was used as a tool to capture students’ ideas, provide an outline for the lesson. The teacher captured audio and photos unobtrusively, and these were shared via social media so that parents and participants could see them. These details could also help the teacher with assessment. The student discussion prior to the activity was captured as well as the design projects themselves. Students were asked to take pictures and videos of their work in progress or when finished.
The assignment itself did not involve technology, but the students were enthusiastic about using the iPads to document their work, and eager to share with us. Due to the level of interaction and inquiry-style discussion that had taken place, supported and focused by the Smartboard, the students all clearly understood the challenge and were quick to choose materials and begin working together to complete a clock stand.
They could work in partners or alone, and chose according to their own preferences.
Next Steps
Well, first of all, you are all rock star teachers, and please keep on doing what you are doing! The only thing I could think of off the top my head, was that in some classes, there was the capacity to use the iPads or other technology for pedagogical documentation. This could be having students in Grade 8 document their viscosity experiments, for example. I wondered too about the young ELL learners, and what a second adult in the room to do some documentation might add to the existing teacher’s knowledge and personal observations.
I guess, without meaning to, I am veering into the realm of using tech for a variety of assessment purposes. More on this another time, I am sure!

1 comment:

adunsiger said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Anne! I definitely agree with your next steps. While I am having the students document more of their learning, this is more limited for some students than for others. I try to capture this learning through my discussions with them, but I know that things are lost. Who might this other person be? I'd love to hear more of your thinking.